FOLA has long believed that a sustainable, appropriately and adequately funded legal aid system is critical to the efficient, effective and just functioning of Ontario's justice system.  

Ontario has one of the best legal aid systems in the world, but it is far from perfect and FOLA is actively involved in a number of initiatives to make the system better for both low-income clients who use the system and the lawyers who utilize funding from Legal Aid.  

Here are some handy links from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO).

FOLA has an active Legal Aid Committee, currently chaired by FOLA executive member Terry Brandon, and is involved with the Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid (ASLA) which has been the primary vehicle for interested legal organizations to lobby for more funds to service more of the population.  

​​​​​​​The members of ASLA are:

  • Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario
  • County and District Law Presidents’ Association 
  • Criminal Lawyers Association 
  • Family Lawyers Association 
  • Law Society of Upper Canada
  • Ontario Bar Association
  • Refugee Lawyers Association 
  • The Advocates’ Society 
  • Mental Health Legal Committee

In the Fall of 2014, the Ontario government's budget announced a substantial three year funding increase to legal aid.  This is the first investment in an intended ten year strategy to raise legal aid eligibility and is part of the Ontario government's overall poverty reduction strategy.  

Highlights of the investment are:  

  • $95.7 million in new funding over the next three years (starting in fiscal 2014-15) 
  • This initial three years of funding is part of a ten year strategy to increase funding and to raise the eligibility thresholds
  • Starting on November 1, 2014 the first of three annual six percent financial eligibility increases for certificate and duty counsel services will be implemented; 
  • Ontario's 76 community legal clinics will also see their financial eligibility guidelines rise, with details still to be worked out; 
  • As a result of these increases, between now and April 1, 2016, an additional 385,000 low-income Ontarians will be eligible for legal aid.  Right now, it is estimated that 1.01 million Ontarians are eligible and this number will increase to 1.4 million.   ​
  • For full details of this announcement, please click here (redirect to Ministry of Attorney General website).

Legal Aid Deficit

In December 2016, FOLA and other stakeholders learned that Legal Aid Ontario was facing a $26 million deficit as a result of higher than anticipated up-take on the expanded services first introduced in 2015. FOLA responded to this news in which we expressed our concern with this development and with the potential impact it might have to clients and to the certificate-bar system in Ontario.  

The Attorney General also commissioned a review of Legal Aid to determine if there were steps to take to avoid the same problems in the future.  The results of this review can be found at this link.  

Looking forward, FOLA will continue to work with Legal Aid Ontario and other stakeholders to strive for an adequately funded legal aid system that maintains the private bar at the centre of the legal aid system.  This means we will continue to work through ASLA and undertake our own advocacy efforts. 

The relationship between the Private Bar and Legal Aid Ontario

​The relationship between the private bar and Legal Aid Ontario has, over time, been a fractious one, but FOLA has attempted to take constructive steps to improve this relationship and to ensure the avenue of communication is always open between LAO and the bar.  At nearly every Plenary meeting, LAO participates in panel discussions; FOLA regularly provides updates on LAO activities to its members; and, if problems arise, FOLA engages with senior executives of LAO to address issues and find solutions.  

If members of the private bar encounter specific problems or issues with LAO, they are encouraged to contact Katie Robinette, Executive Director ( directly so the issues can be dealt with quickly.  

FOLA also strives to invite LAO representatives to its bi-annual plenary meetings as often as possible to facilitate an ongoing dialogue between LAO and the practicing bar. 

The Legal Aid Ontario Client Portal has launched!

Clients can now quickly and conveniently complete the following essential tasks online, in either French or English.

  • Complete the Consent & Declaration (C&D) agreement.
  • View all communication with LAO in one place.
  • View personal information.
  • Find a lawyer that accepts legal aid certificates.

New legal aid recipients will be informed of the client portal when making their application.

Existing clients can register by calling LAO's client services centre at 1‑800‑668‑8258 to obtain a PIN and user instructions.

Please contact LAO's client service centre at 1‑800‑668‑8258 (416‑598‑8867 in Toronto) if you have any questions or if any of your clients experience technical difficulties using this new service.